Reassembling a Life: Discovering ADHD

How a troubled mom who perked up her marriage and reconnected with joy after getting help for her ADD.

Reassembling a Life: Discovering and Diagnosing Adult ADHD ADDitude Magazine

I've learned that ADD is a lot like alcohol addiction: Both are lifelong conditions.

Luann Kole, mother to Madeline

Luann Kole has faced many challenges in her 45 years, including alcohol addiction, an abusive husband, financial trouble, divorce, and single parenthood. But nothing was tougher, she says, than living for four decades with undiagnosed attention deficit disorder (ADD ADHD).

Kole finally received a diagnosis a year and a half ago, after a bout with depression. Daily doses of Concerta and the antidepressant Lexapro helped, but the mother of two from Cohasset, Minnesota, still felt that life wasn't all it should be. Last September, when she came across an ad for Jennifer Koretsky's three-month, phone-in coaching program, Kole eagerly signed up for it.

How have things gone for Kole, a self-proclaimed perfectionist who could never finish anything she set out to do? She and her coach describe the changes in her life, big and small:

Luann Kole: I've been sober for seven years, after drinking heavily for 13 years. (I used to put amaretto in my morning coffee, whiskey in my lunchtime soft drink, and then drink wine at dinner.) Two weeks ago I gave up cigarettes, after 30 years as a two-pack-a-day smoker. Giving up alcohol and tobacco was very hard, but not as hard as living day-to-day with ADD.

Before I went on medication and started with Jennifer's coaching sessions, every small problem seemed insurmountable. I'd start my daily chores but stop before finishing them. I'd pick up a book, read for five minutes, then put it down. I couldn't stay focused. Then, when I failed to complete my morning chores, I got really cranky.

One day it occurred to me that I was a victim of "if only" thinking. If only I could get my house organized and my to-do list done, life would be perfect. I spent so much time obsessing over what I needed to do, I couldn't do anything. That's when I decided to see a psychologist, and was diagnosed.

Jennifer Koretsky, Luann's ADD Coach: When I met Luann, she was filled with self-doubt. She knew how to improve her day-to-day living, but didn't trust herself to do it. Once she realized she couldn't have perfection, she moved on to something else. When that didn't work out either, she felt overwhelmed. Next came the guilt, which sapped her resolve and energy. It was a vicious cycle.

Luann: I liked the idea of group coaching. Group therapy had helped me overcome my addictions, and I had a hunch it would help my ADD-related problems. I was right.

Jennifer: Each group coaching session starts with a brief check-in, so we can all say hello and update each other on any progress. Next, I describe a particular skill, explain why it is a challenge for ADDers, and offer practical strategies for cultivating the skill.

I ask the group to open their workbooks and do an exercise or two related to the skill under discussion. Then I take questions and comments. I give specific advice to anyone who seems unsure about how to develop the skill, and the whole group benefits from listening in. The goal is to be as positive and as supportive as possible. Everyone in need of a boost gets it from me and the other group members. Luann was great at this - extremely supportive and encouraging of other members.

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TAGS: ADHD and Relationships, ADHD Parents, Adult ADD: Late Diagnosis, Substance Abuse and Addiction, ADHD and Marriage

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